Fatal fire investigation concludes

Friday, November 30, 2012 ~ Updated 4:26 PM

The Thanksgiving fire in Wheaton that killed five people has been ruled accidental following an extensive on-scene investigation by the State Fire Marshal and the Barry County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators announced today (Friday, Nov. 30) that the fire originated on the southwest side of the second floor of the Blue Ridge Apartments at 300 S. Hill St. in Wheaton. The fire broke out at approximately 3:23 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 22.

The investigation did not turn up any evidence that the blaze was intentionally set. Due to the severity of the damage to the apartment building, investigators were unable to determine the cause of the fire.

The fire has been classified as "undetermined," but investigators were not able to rule out the possibility of an electrical malfunction in the second floor apartment where the fire started.

Although the damage was extensive, witnesses said more than one smoke detector or alarm sounded on the morning of the fire.

Jonathan "Jay" Gemmecke, 22, and Molly Doherty, 54, died in the apartment where the fire originated. Mary Henning, 43, Brandon Thurston, 8, and Corey Hasche, 23, died in the second floor northeast apartment.

Ellen Doherty, 23, the daughter of Molly Doherty, escaped without injury. According to the Sheriff's Office, Ellen Doherty reported seeing flames near a couch and on the south wall of the apartment's living room.

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